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University of York team discover links between prostate cancer and vitamin A
THE links between prostate cancer and low levels of vitamin A have been uncovered by scientists at the University of York .
The team, led by prostate cancer specialist professor Norman Maitland, hopes a better understanding of how vitamin A affects the cancer cells, will lead to the development of medicines to make the disease more treatable.
Prof Maitland said his team had discovered that a derivative of vitamin A, known as retinoic acid, causes a change in prostate cancer cells which makes them far more susceptible to treatment.
According to the NHS, foods high in vitamin A include liver, cheese, eggs, oily fish such as mackerel, milk and yogurt.
Prof Maitland said: “We are trying to find how it works at a the level of the cancer cell.
“If you have low vitamin A, the cancer stem cells are more likely to survive and, split but if you have more vitamin A you can kill them. It makes them more susceptible to chemotherapy.”
Last year, Prof Maitland and his team were awarded £2.15 million by Yorkshire Cancer Research, enabling them to continue their work.
The charity says nearly 41,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the UK, and although about 80 per cent survive for five years or more, 10,000 men die annually Prof Maitland argues that some therapies have previously been misused in cancer treatments, but that used in lower doses they could be a realistic treatment option.
He said: “Doctors have been using vitamin A to kill cancers but we should be using it to modify the cancer cells, ie set them up to be killed.”
While the study is not linking a dietary intake of the vitamin with a reduction in prostate cancer, prof Maitland said people with high levels of vitamin A were easier to treat successfully and that vitamin A could be gained from a person’s diet.